Transgender Day of Remembrance in Retrospect

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance was a learning experience for me, thanks to a discussion on my own blog, Tranifesto, about the real benefits of TDOR if the majority of those observing it with ceremonies and events are middle-class and white, when the majority of those being remembered are trans women of color and/or women who struggle economically.

Colorado, where I live, is somewhat unique in that Greeley, a small, rather rural, and definitely conservative town in our state, was the first venue in the country to return a hate-crimes verdict against the murderer of a trans woman. In 2009, Allen Andrade was found guilty of both first-degree murder and a hate crime in the brutal slaying of Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old Latina trans woman.

Angie Zapata’s mother and family attended last year’s TDOR in Denver, as did the mother of Fred Martinez, Jr., a young Navajo individual who was brutally murdered in 2001 in Cortez, Colorado, for expressing a feminine gender. 

This year’s Denver-area TDOR ceremony was a very tastefully done memorial that brought a wide range of individuals together to remember those killed in the past year and beyond.

One of the speakers was Bryon Large, an Colorado immigration attorney who just won asylum for Alexandra Reyes, a trans woman who fled to the United States from Mexico after her family beat her and tried to kill her because she is trans. Ms. Reyes, who lives in the Denver area, had planned to attend, but was unable to do so because she has been overwhelmed by the attention that she has been receiving from the media since she was granted asylum a few days ago. But the positive note of the evening was that another brutal murder has possibly been averted. 

After the TDOR controversy arose on my blog, I spent some time trying to find out more by reading other blogs and articles in a similar vein. Very valid points have been made, and I am happy to be more educated about another side to the ceremonies.  
I think TDOR has a purpose. But I think that the voices that remain largely unheard must be listened to, and the rift over this day that has divided our community must somehow be healed. 

As a white trans man in the United States, I am at low risk for the kind of brutality that leads us to observe this day in the first place. So I don’t think that solutions to this divide are mine to propose. I do think, however, that we all have a responsibility to carry out the solutions.

The goal is to stop the murders as we continue to remember those who have died. Because there is far more than just transphobia involved, it will take some major cultural sea changes in order for this to happen. 

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t, and shouldn’t, work toward that eventual goal – in as many ways, and with as many people, as possible, including all the members of our community. 

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